Digital Skills Series: The Case for Cloud Technology in Small Businesses
Back in 2016, a study estimated that as many as 64% of small businesses were already using cloud technology, with 88% of them planning to adopt at least one cloud service in the next 2-3 years. As of 2021, the global cloud computing industry is projected to be worth $760.98 billion by 2027, with businesses of all shapes and sizes embracing the incredible potential for collaboration, security and growth that the cloud offers.
Despite this, many small businesses are still only just beginning their cloud journey, or perhaps are yet to see the full benefits of the cloud in action. If this is the case for you, we hope that this article will help demonstrate the transformative potential cloud technology has for small business.
The 'Plug in and play' potential
Perhaps one of the greatest misconceptions about the cloud is that it requires significant investment in order to provide value. After all, technology websites are often full of articles about how enterprise level businesses need to better manage their cloud budgets and optimise their IT resources.
For small businesses however, this simply isn’t the case. Most cloud apps and software aimed at smaller organisations are designed to be ‘plug in and play’. You register, pay a small subscription and
then get all the benefits of the software, with none of the headache of actually having to manage the technology. Cloud based business tools like Slack, Monday, Google Drive and Dropbox all use this model and even offer free versions of the software that you can try before committing to a subscription. As a rule, the best cloud apps are designed to be as accessible and low maintenance to the subscriber as possible, allowing you to seamlessly integrate them into your workflow and focus instead on running your business.
Improve flexibility and collaboration
One of the greatest pressures on small businesses is time. Whether it’s working all hours of the day to grow your business, or ensuring you’re exceeding the expectations of every client, it’s easy to get to the end of the week and wonder exactly where Monday - Thursday went!
It’s not just about finding time however. Creating a working environment that’s flexible, collaborative and open has been shown to increase productivity and happiness, both for you and your team. Cloud based project management tools can cut down on endless email chains and catch up calls, allowing your team to work more productively on key projects from home, or in the office. Accounting tools like Sage and Freshbooks can dramatically cut down on those dreaded end of month hours collating and processing invoices - or at least let you do it from the comfort of your living room! In short, investing in cloud software is often the key to creating a more flexible, collaborative and happier small business.
Protect against data loss
One of the biggest challenges faced by small businesses is the threat of data loss. Whether it’s by mistake, or due to a malicious attack, losing critical business data can not only cause a real financial headache, it can seriously impede your business from operating effectively and erode consumer / client confidence.
Fundamentally, one of the best things you can do to minimise the risk of data loss is to invest in a cloud based backup server. Even something as straightforward as Google Drive, iCloud or OneDrive for business will provide storage on encrypted cloud servers, endpoint protection (where you have access permissions over all the devices using your data) and a regular automatic data backup. All of this will help protect business data and ensure you have access to it in the office, at home, or when you’re on the go. If you already have an on premise, physical server, you might also consider a private cloud server that can act as a backup, should you run into any hardware issues in the office. Whether it’s customer details, financial records or years worth of valuable projects, taking steps to secure and back up critical data in the cloud is perhaps one of the most important steps any small business can take in 2021.
Room to Streamline and Scale Up
Cloud apps and software often make an immediate impact on the day to day operation of a small business, but a big part of their impact can be found in the additional room they provide to streamline and scale up. This can be anything from developing more flexible, efficient working habits with cloud based productivity apps, to reducing the time spent on tasks that take you away from the fundamentals of managing a small business. Whilst they might not seem like huge changes at the time, the savings in terms of time and money, not to mention the increased productivity, could make a huge difference in the long term.
In terms of scalability, cloud computing can grow as your business does, often without the need for extensive software changes or big investments. Let’s say you take on 2 extra team members. If you’re using a cloud app like Office 365, you can add users to your account and give them instant access to current projects and important resources. Need more server space or data storage? These kinds of processes take minutes within the cloud and cause minimal disruption to day to day operations. Similarly, if you need to scale back usage in certain areas in order to invest elsewhere, the process is just as straightforward. Small businesses set themselves apart in their desire to adapt, grow and succeed, often in the face of not insignificant challenges. Cloud technology can provide the tools that facilitate this process, creating the opportunity for dynamic, scalable success in highly competitive environments.
We hope you enjoyed this latest article in our Digital Skills Series! Whilst cloud technology might no longer be a ‘new’ technology, it’s difficult to overstate how important the apps and software created through it are to small businesses. If you’d like to read more about how small businesses can use digital tools and technology to their advantage, please visit our Insights hub.
- ‘The small business revolution: trends in SMB cloud adoption’, BSCG 2016, https://www.bcsg.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/The-small-business-revolution-trends-in-SMB-cloud-adoption.pdf
- 'Flexible Working Business Case', CIPD, https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/flexible-working-business-case_tcm18-52768.pdf